tags: Top Young Historians
Laurent Dubois, 36
Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University
Area of Research: Caribbean, French, Comparative Slavery and Emancipation
Education: Ph.D. in Anthropology and History, University of Michigan, August 1998
Major Publications: Dubois is the author of A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804, (published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 2004), winner of the 2005 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, winner of the 2005 David Pinkney Prize, Society for French Historical Studies, winner of the 2004 Prize in Atlantic History, American Historical Association, winner of the 2004 John Edwin Fagg Prize, American Historical Association. He is also the author of Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), A Best Book of 2004, Non-Fiction, Los Angeles Times, A Notable Book of 2004, Christian Science Monitor, First Runner-Up, Best Book, Adult Non-Fiction, Society of Midland Authors, 2004-2005. Dubois is also the co-author with John Garrigus of Slave Revolution in the Caribbean: A History in Documents, (Bedford Press, 2006). Dubois also has two of his book published in French: Les Vengeurs du Nouveau Monde: Histoire de la Revolution haïtienne (Rennes: Les Perséides, 2005). Translatation of Avengers of the New World by Thomas Van Ruymbeke, with Preface by Jean Casimir, and Les esclaves de la République: l'histoire oubliée de la première émancipation, 1789-1794 (Paris: Calmann- Lévy, 1998), This was a translation of a part of his dissertation, with some new introductory and concluding material Dubois wrote in French.
Dubois is currently working on a number of book projects; A History of the Caribbean, with Richard Turits (under contract with University of North Carolina Press), "Give Me the Banjo!": America's Instrument from Africa to America (manuscript in preparation), and Zidane, Thuram and the Empire of French Soccer, (manuscript in preparation).
Awards: Dubois is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Research Grant, Intramural Research Grant Program, Michigan State University 2005-06;
Research Grant, French Ministère d'Outre-Mer 2005-06;
Fintz Excellence in Teaching Award 2004;
M.S.U. Teacher-Scholar Award 2002;
Research Grant, Intramural Research Grant Program, Michigan State University 2001-02;
Seed Grant, Institute on Race, Urbanization, and Social Injustice, Michigan State University 2001;
Ford Africanist Fellow, W.E.B DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University 1998-99;
Columbia Society of Fellows (declined) 1998;
Fulbright Advanced Student Grant (France) 1996-97;
Lurcy Education Trust Fellowship 1996-98;
Rackham Graduate School Regent's Fellowship 1992-96;
Council for European Studies Pre-Dissertation Grant 1994-95;
National Science Foundation Ethnology Training Grant 1993;
Afro-American Studies Senior Thesis Award, Princeton University 1992.
Dubois was interviewed for the BBC Documentary "Race Across Time," January 2007.
He was a Visiting Assistant Professor Department of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University, 1999.
He was also the Co-Coordinator, France and the French Atlantic Research Team, ACLS Collaborative Research Network, which brought together scholars working in the U.S., Paris and the Université Antilles-Guyane, Martinique 2001-03.
I did much of the research for my book A Colony of Citizens in Aix-en-Provence. I initially arrived in Aix essentially by chance. A graduate student in a program in Anthropology and History, I was planning on doing a dissertation about contemporary Caribbean healers in metropolitan France. As I was finishing up my second year in graduate school, I learned about an opening as the assistant for a study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence. I knew the French colonial archives were there, and jumped at the chance to spend what my father quickly dubbed “A Year in Provence.” I wasn't renovating a beautiful old house: I lived in a tiny room in a French dorm, though with a nice view of Mont Saint-Victoire. My job was to help culture-shocked and frequently hung-over undergraduates navigate the French university system. But I was lucky to have as my boss Edris Makward, a specialist on African literature who gave me plenty of time to work in the archives.
One sunny September morning I arrived at the archives optimistically, and quickly realized I had no idea what to do. But there was one part of the history of the Caribbean that particularly intrigued me: the revolutionary period of slave revolts and emancipation. I had read about in the period in two novels by Alejo Carpentier and Daniel Maximin, and I also knew that if I wanted to pursue my interest in questions of citizenship and belonging in France it was reasonable to follow the well-trodden path back to the French Revolution.
I asked the archivist whether I might find any information about this topic. He told me confidently: “No.” It was a useful lesson about French bureaucracy, where no is almost always the first answer to any query, by institutional and philosophical necessity. Actually, of course, there are cartons and cartons, registers and registers, of material that deals directly with the topic I was interested in, more than I could ever get through in my entire life. But life, and particularly my year in Aix, was short. Where to begin?
There was, at that time, one large table for all researchers to work at, and one electrical plug near it. There were several other researchers who, like me, were using laptops, all of which needed to be plugged in. The man who engineered a solution to this problem - by bringing in a jerry-rigged multi-plug configuration - was Stewart King, a student at Johns Hopkins University, who was doing a dissertation on free people of color in Saint-Domingue. When I told him with what must have exuded bewilderment about what I was interested in, he responded with a grace and generosity that was remarkable, and transformative.
He showed me how, from notarial registers, he was drawing out information about the social networks, economic life, and military service of free people of color. He showed me the database he was constructing. Thanks to Stewart, I suddenly had a research strategy, and I got to work.
By Laurent Dubois
About Laurent Dubois
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